A variety of natural resource conservation organizations can be found in Mississippi. In 2014 nearly one hundred were registered with the Secretary of State’s Office as charitable organizations. Some of these organizations, such as the Izaak Walton League, are national in scope; others, such as the World Wildlife Fund, are international in scope and have members in Mississippi but no state or local chapters. The Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy, and other groups have both a national and a state structure, with state organizations known as Audubon Mississippi, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, the Mississippi Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, and so forth. Individuals may be members of either the national or state organization or of both. Other statewide organizations such as the Bear Education and Restoration Group of Mississippi and the Mississippi Ornithological Society are independent state entities. In addition, many local organizations have had very specific missions, such as the Wolf River Conservation Society and Friends of the DeSoto.
These types of environmental organizations began to develop in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when people across the country became aware of the loss or decline of many wildlife species. At the federal level, Pres. Theodore Roosevelt created 150 national forests, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments between 1901 and 1903 and convened the first North American Conservation Conference in 1909 in recognition of the need for conservation throughout the United States. But private citizens discovered that federal and state agencies could not and sometimes would not address all conservation concerns and realized that individuals needed to take an active role in conservation efforts. In response, groups began to form to take on that role.
In 1936 Franklin Delano Roosevelt convened a North American Wildlife Conference, “the purpose being to bring together all interested organizations, agencies, and individuals on behalf of restoration and conservation of land, water, forest, and wildlife resources.” Scientists and technicians discussed restoration of the continent’s vanishing wildlife as well as soil erosion, restoration of impounded water, and pollution control. The conference resulted in the adoption of a program and recommendations for closer cooperation among interested groups, individuals, and government agencies and in the creation of the National Wildlife Federation.
New organizations continue to emerge in Mississippi. The Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, for example, was incorporated in 2000 and purchases land for protection as permanent green space. The Natural Resources Initiative of North Mississippi, founded in 2001, seeks to facilitate an environmentally sustainable, healthy, and dynamic economy through proactive partnerships between government and business. The Deer Creek Watershed Association (founded in 2005) and other groups have addressed water quality issues in the Delta.
All of these organizations seek to protect some aspect of the natural world. This mission may encompass the whole of wildlife or focus on one particular species, group of species, or natural feature. These groups’ efforts usually lead to protecting habitats required for plants and animals and generally include an education component.
- Thomas B. Allan, Guardian of the Wild: The Story of the National Wildlife Federation (1987)
- Mississippi Secretary of State, 2007 Report on Charitable Organizations in Mississippi
- Mississippi Secretary of State, 2014 Report on Charitable Organizations in Mississippi
- National Wildlife Federation, Conservation Directory 2005–2006 (2005)
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Letter on the North American Wildlife Conference,” American Presidency Project website, www.presidency.ucsb.edu
- Theodore Roosevelt Association website, www.theodoreroosevelt.org